Mike Couick, CEO ECSC
South Carolina’s electric cooperatives are partnering with the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), a non-profit public policy education and outreach organization based in Washington, D.C., to develop a pilot project to help rural South Carolinians save energy and money in their homes.
The project will provide low-interest micro-loans for home energy efficiency improvements to consumers, who then would use a portion of what they save on electricity to pay back the loans on their monthly electric bills. The project will serve as a model for similar programs in South Carolina and other states, and for a national program, the Rural Energy Savings Program Act or "Rural Star,” which has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and now awaits a Senate vote.
The collaboration between the co-ops and EESI to design and implement this pilot project is being supported by a $225,000 grant to EESI from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation . The project was one of nine selected from among 372 pre-proposals that the Foundation received through a national competition soliciting ideas for scalable approaches to spurring energy efficiency retrofits of existing buildings in the U.S.
EESI will work with The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, Inc. (ECSC), the state association of electric cooperatives, and Central Electric Power Cooperative , the wholesale power aggregator for the state’s co-ops, to design and implement the program.
South Carolina’s electric cooperatives developed the program in response to an impending need for costly new electric generation capacity in South Carolina—driven by population growth trends and exacerbated by the state’s high energy use in both winter and summer and large percentage of relatively inefficient homes.
"South Carolina could be the Saudi Arabia of energy efficiency,” said Mike Couick, CEO of the ECSC. "Looking at all our options, efficiency is simply the smartest and cheapest energy source we could find.”
"Our goal is to weatherize and upgrade 225,000 homes over 10 years,” said Ron Calcaterra, CEO of Central Electric Power Cooperative. "By doing that, we could save all co-op members $4 billion, or the cost of half of a nuclear plant. In the process, we’ll also cut the state’s carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 7 million metric tons.”
EESI’s primary role will be to make sure the project benefits from outside expertise and relevant experiences in other states, increasing the value of the project for other states and a potential national program. EESI has developed extensive information resources and relationships among energy experts across the country.
"This cutting-edge project provides a financially sustainable model for achieving dramatic energy and greenhouse gas savings,” explained EESI Executive Director Carol Werner.